SAN FRANCISCO - Nearly a week after banning President Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey broke his silence with a series of Tweets explaining the company’s decision to go forward with the suspension.
On Jan. 8., Twitter announced that it had permanently removed Trump’s personal Twitter account after a review, citing "the risk of further incitement of violence." The move came days after the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters who attempted to halt Congress’ certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.
On Wednesday, Dorsey wrote that he was not celebrating the ban of Trump, but rather felt the move was necessary to respond to "threats to physical safety both on and off Twitter."
"I believe this was the right decision for Twitter," Dorsey wrote. "We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety. Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all."
Dorsey went on to explain that he understands that the suspension of Trump’s Twitter account could result in "real and significant ramifications."
"While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us," Dorsey wrote.
While some supporters of Trump have criticized the company and other social media platforms for banning the president, Dorsey explained the differences between the obligations of a government and those of a private tech company to uphold citizens’ First Amendment rights.
"A company making a business decision to moderate itself is different from a government removing access, yet can feel much the same," Dorsey explained.
On Tuesday, Twitter said it had deactivated more than 70,000 accounts tied to the QAnon conspiracy theory. The company said the users were banned for being engaged "in sharing harmful QAnon-associated content at scale and were primarily dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy theory across the service."
"Our updated enforcement on QAnon content on Twitter, along with routine spam challenges, has resulted in changes in follower count for some people’s Twitter accounts. In some cases, these actions may have resulted in follower count changes in the thousands," Twitter wrote in a statement published to its blog Monday.
Twitter said the move to eliminate the conspiracy theory proliferating accounts from their platform came after the violent insurrection that occurred on Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Many of the rioters were photographed wearing apparel emblazoned with QAnon slogans and carrying signs and flags bearing symbols of the conspiracy theory.
QAnon’s influence was evident during last week’s pro-Trump riot as a mob of angry supporters of the president descended on the halls of Congress. Police officers were photographed fending off a man in a "Q" sweatshirt from the Senate chamber and a leading promoter of QAnon was also photographed in Senate chambers wearing bull horns and face paint.
By removing the accounts from their platform, Twitter said it hopes to "protect the conversation on our service from attempts to incite violence, organize attacks, and share deliberately misleading information about the election outcome."
Trump has retweeted QAnon-promoting accounts, and shirts and hats with QAnon symbols and slogans were not uncommon at his rallies.
QAnon has ricocheted around the darker corners of the internet since late 2017, but has been creeping into mainstream politics more and more. The baseless theory centers on an alleged anonymous, high-ranking government official known as "Q" who shares information about anti-Trump government officials, often allegedly tied to Satanism and child sex trafficking.
Trump was criticized in August when he showed appreciation for support from QAnon conspiracy believers. When asked by a reporter during a White House press briefing what he thought of the movement, Trump responded, "Well, I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate."
Twitter's sweeping purge of QAnon accounts, which began Friday, is part of a wider crackdown that also includes its decision to ban Trump from the service over worries about further incitement to violence.
The social media company said it's also stepping up enforcement measures and starting Tuesday it will limit the spread of posts that violate its civic integrity policy by preventing anyone from replying to, liking or retweeting them. The policy prohibits attempts to manipulate elections and spread misleading info about their results, with repeated violations resulting in permanent suspension.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.